December 30, 2005
From NZEI Te Riu Roa
For Immediate Use
RESOLUTION OF THE KINDERGARTEN DISPUTE AND A NEW SCHOOL FUNDING SYSTEM TOP NZEI'S NEW YEAR WISH LIST
The country's largest education union, NZEI Te Riu Roa, has issued a list of education issues it wants addressed in 2006.
NZEI's 45,000 members work as early childhood and primary teachers, support staff in early childhood, primary and secondary schools, special education staff in early childhood, primary and secondary schools and school advisers based in Colleges of Education and universities.
1. Kindergarten dispute
Negotiations between an NZEI led team and the Ministry of Education and kindergarten associations have broken down because the employers are trying to impose working conditions on the teachers that would undermine the quality of education provided to 45,000 children enrolled in the country's kindergartens.
"The teachers and NZEI have said all along that they're prepared to negotiate working conditions that enable kindergartens to meet the diverse needs of parents, in terms of the hours that kindergartens are open," says NZEI Te Riu Roa National President, Colin Tarr.
"But what we've also said all along, is that teachers are not prepared to accept working conditions that would compromise the quality of education that children receive at a kindergarten, regardless of the kindergarten's hours of operation."
2. Changing school funding
Changing the funding system for schools so that there is a simplified, equitable and sustainable mechanism for resourcing schools, that also offers school support staff fair pay and conditions, is the second issue the union wants the Minister for Education, Steve Maharey, to prioritise in 2006.
Currently support staff are paid from a schools' operations grant, the same money used to buy books, pay the power bill and equip classrooms.
"As a result schools can often run short of money to pay their support staff, who are then told that the school can't afford to keep employing them, or that their hours of work will have to be cut," says NZEI Te Riu Roa, National President, Colin Tarr.
"It also means that support staff don't get paid the salaries they are legally entitled to receive under their collective agreement."
NZEI proposes that the Government provide guaranteed funding for core work done by support staff, with further money provided within the operations grant, enabling a school to employ the extra support staff they need.
"The current school funding system has remained unchanged for 15 years and needs a major overhaul," says Colin Tarr.
3. Other issues NZEI Te Riu Roa want addressed in 2006 are:
* Ensuring widespread consultation by the Ministry of Education with the teaching profession and the wider community about the implementation of the Schooling Strategy and the Curriculum Project;
* Implementation of Student Loan Scheme so that new teachers in particular are not saddled with the stress of large debts;
* A successful roll-out of pay and employment equity pilot schemes in the education sector to ensure there is a basis for fair pay in the future;
* Improvement in Maori educational achievement by, for example, increasing the number of trained teachers expert in te reo Maori, and other resources;
* Ensuring appropriate resourcing for Special Education students, many of whom currently face a paucity of resourcing and an overly bureaucratic funding system.